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Friday, December 19, 2014 

An Indian comic about a heroine who fights against rapists

An Indian filmmaker in New York published a comic book with a goal far nobler than anything you may see in American mainstream today:
Two years ago this day, a 23-year-old woman was brutally gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi. Three days later she died from her injuries. The incident pushed millions in the city and all over India to protest the widespread violence against women. The protests led to tougher laws and empowered women to stand up against sexual violence.

And one man was inspired to create a comic book superhero.

Ram Devineni, a New York-based filmmaker, gave life to Priya, a survivor of gang rape who seeks to stop violence against women.

It started with a conversation with a New Delhi policeman in the days after the rape. "I asked what he thought about what had happened on the bus," says Devineni. "I'm paraphrasing here, but he basically said 'No good girl walks home alone at night,' which implies she deserved it or provoked it. I immediately realized the problem of sexual violence in India is not a legal issue but a cultural problem."

After months of traveling around India talking to all sorts of people, including rape victims, about sexual violence, Devineni decided to create Priya. Shunned by her family and village after she is raped, she takes refuge in the jungle and is stalked by a tiger. Parvati, a Hindu goddess, comes to her aid and grants her special powers that include fearlessness and a magical mantra that she uses to change people's minds.

With her new powers, Priya tames the tiger and rides him back to her village, where she begins her fight against rape and sexual violence.
How come mainstream comic book publishers in the USA can't learn a thing or two from these folks? I can't say I've seen DC or Marvel publish so much as a comics-formatted guide protesting sexual violence. In fact, their output this past decade or so makes it difficult for now without looking hypocritical, so long as they keep publishing comics with negative takes on women. To convince they can improve, they have to disavow the worst examples and publish some stories - in or out of continuity - that make clear points about why sexual assault is evil.

You'd think it would be easy for companies publishing politcized crossovers like Civil War to write up stories supporting women's rights convincingly. But no, they simply can't overcome their one-sided approaches to give it a try.

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